Congress investigates an alleged corruption scheme in public companies. Complicated months for the president.
The last 30 days were for the president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, one of the most complicated in his 21-month term, since he went from losing the referendum promoted by his government to finding himself on the verge of a political trial promoted by the opposition, due to to an alleged plot of corruption in public companies.
Only the impeachment motion, which he managed to save by a few votes in the midst of strong protests by the indigenous movement last June, can be compared to the current moment that the Ecuadorian president is going through.
In a month, Lasso suffered a severe setback at the polls before an opposition that emerged strengthened from the electoral appointment and that now points to an eventual departure of the head of state, who still has more than 2 years left in his mandate, after leaving for light the case of alleged corruption in which his brother-in-law Danilo Carrera is mentioned.
With the referendum, the Lasso government hoped to receive popular support to apply a series of reforms to the Constitution regarding security, institutions, democracy, political parties and the environment, but the result was the opposite.
The “No” won in the eight questions that proposed issues such as allowing the extradition of Ecuadorians required for organized crime; reduce the number of assembly members; put a minimum fence of affiliates to political movements, and take away from the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control (Cpccs) the power to elect authorities such as the attorney general and the comptroller.
Ecuadorian legislators vote in favor of starting an impeachment trial against President Guillermo Lasso, this Saturday. Photo: REUTERS
The final results indicate that the closest vote was on the issue of extradition, where the “No” vote prevailed with 51.54%. In the popular consultation, the opposition won, campaigning strongly for the “No” and also triumphing in the local elections that were held the same day, when the movement related to former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017) defeated in nine of the 23 provincial prefectures at stake and the Pachakutik indigenous movement in another six.
The Citizen Revolution, the party led by Correa, also took over the mayoralties of the most populous cities, such as Quito and Guayaquil, putting an end to a three-decade hegemony of the right-wing Social Christian Party.
The situation was further complicated for Lasso by the revelations of the digital media La Posta about an alleged corruption plot in public companies in which businessman Danilo Carrera, Lasso’s brother-in-law, was designated as “godfather”.
This was followed by the disclosure of a police report filed a year ago on an investigation into an alleged drug trafficking network that had businessman Rubén Cherres, another figure close to the ruling party and supposedly also Carrera, among its follow-up objectives.
Following the June 2022 protests, Lasso was spared from an impeachment attempt in Congress. Photo: AFP
This led the Parliament, with an opposition majority, to form a commission to investigate the facts and prepare a report that recommends opening a political trial against Lasso, under the premise of alleged crimes against State security and omissions in crimes against the public administration, which was approved on Saturday by the plenary.
The government, which has always denied being behind any corruption scheme and has expressed its interest in collaborating with any investigation, forcefully rejected the parliamentary report, considering that it “lacks legal validity, is not binding”, in addition to “a true attack on reason and common sense”.
Any request for impeachment must now go through the review of the Constitutional Court, which must decide whether there are grounds to open a process.
In the event that the Constitutional Court overthrows the possibility of impeachment, the opposition has already slipped the possibility of using other mechanisms such as declaring the “mental incapacity” of the president to remove him from power.
One of the first to demonstrate in favor of Lasso’s departure, even before the alleged corruption plot in public companies in the energy sector became known, was Correa, who considered that it is not necessary to wait until the end of the presidential term for a change of ruler And the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, which has its political arm in Pachakutik, held an extended council last week in which it also requested the departure of Lasso.